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South America

South America, Travel

El Tatio Geysers

25 August, 2016

There’s a lot to be said for well executed preparation. I had been warned beforehand, both by independent online research, as well as by the tour company (Turismo Kaulles), that the El Tatio Geysers would be a chilly experience, both because of the altitude (it’s at 4320m above sea level), and due to the time of the tour (the crack of dawn, before the warming glow of the desert sun has had a chance to cast its shadow). But when you’re cosy and toasty and quite happily ambling between the 80 or so geysers and “fuma oles” and generally steaming holes in the ground, while everyone else in your group is wishing the tour is over, or running back to the comparative, but not much warmer, comfort of the bus, you can’t help but feel a little smug.

I had never visited a geothermal field before this trip (I don’t think…now that I type that, I feel a strange sense of deja vu…) and while reviews online had been mixed, I have a feeling those who weren’t so impressed by them, were the ones who came underprepared. Maybe I’m just easily pleased, but I thought the El Tatio Geysers, located about 90km from San Pedro de Atacama, were something of a visual spectacle – the way the clouds of steam flirted with the morning sun, the occasional eruptions of boiling water from the numerous openings to the earth’s depths, and the crisp chill of the Chilean air adding to the immersive sensual experience.

The 10,000 Chilean peso entrance fee may have been a little steep, since there doesn’t seem to be a great deal of maintenance required, but I reckon the El Tatio Geysers are well worth a visit, even if it means a 4am wake up call.

For the record, clothing wise, I probably had a slight advantage in that I had my snowboarding base, mid and outer layers with me, and also a spare jacket, since I’d just come from a week in the mountains. To break it down, I wore a tank top, a Merino wool crew sweater, a puffy mid-layer, a regular hoody and a Goretex shell designed from spring skiing. For bottoms, I had a base layer, with sports leggings, thick woollen socks, and Dubarrys (up to the knees). I also had spring riding gloves, and my riding scarf, but wore a cap instead of a hat, since I had two hoods. Toasty AF.

South America, Travel

San Pedro de Atacama

21 August, 2016

These summer trips are always a bit baffling for my brain. One minute I’m braving blizzards and zero visibility conditions on the mountainous peaks of the Andes, and the next, I can’t lather on the sunscreen fast enough as the desert sun beats down on my untrained, arguably English, skin.

But I’m here, in the Chilean desert of San Pedro de Atacama. I’m reliably informed that there was a tourist boom over the course of the last few years, which, as always, is great for accessibility to typical city needs (there’s a pharmacy…in the desert…) but not so great for authentic, local culture. However, I argue that having your transfer break down not five minutes after leaving the safety of the airport, is as authentic as you might get for South America.

The streets here are dusty (duh), and randomly littered with dog poo as dogs do love a good roam in Chile, and the vibe is distinctly gypsy travelling adventure types. Lots of couples, but also a fair few intrepid girlfriend groups. All seem to speak Spanish, which makes me the odd one out – but it’s part of the adventure, right??

South America, Travel

Ouro Preto

27 December, 2015

Ouro Preto. City of Black Gold. First settlement of the conquering Portuguese who came in their search of gold. And what a magnificent city it remains.

It’s been more than a year since my last post. It’s not because I ran out of things to say (if you’ve ever met me, you know this is highly unlikely) but mostly because I got sick of this site looked but couldn’t muster the motivation to do something about it. So it sat and gathered dust.

But it’s back now. Mid-face lift but a useable interface nonetheless, to tell the tales of my travels. Which I have continued even in the temporary absence of a home for my stories. That’s the beauty of travelling – the best memories will commit themselves to your brain, ready to be recounted at the drop of a hat.

So, back to the city of Black Gold. Think San Francisco steeps but Brazilian weather, and cobblestone streets like Victorian England. Sound like a dream? It definitely was. And the drive there wasn’t half bad either – Ouro Preto lies in the behemoth production state of Minas Gerais, meaning it is well connected by a string of industrial routes.

If pulling into the somewhat sleepy looking town, surrounded on all sides by lush green mountains, spiked every so often by the spire of an old colonial church, was like stepping back in time, then getting out of the car to walk down narrow streets and alleys, lined by colourful, typical Portuguese architecture that makes this place a UNESCO World Heritage site, was a leap back to the golden era.

Everywhere you look, bright yellow, pink, green and white buildings that might look gaudy elsewhere, beam down at you with the kind of pride that says they have stood the test of time, and invite you in to regale you with all the stories lived out within their walls.

It’s a little off the beaten path, and I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have survived without a native, but by no means is Ouro Preto a hidden gem – we tried some Minas food, figuring any restaurant would serve quality fare, and while I loved it, my friend found some of the elements lacking in authenticity. Which may seem a shame, but the world grows smaller by the day, and we all become hopefully, more interconnected and if the price of cross culture communication and understanding, is sacrificing a little quality, then I think, at times, it is a fair price to pay. But if you don’t believe me, go check it out for yourself.

 

 

South America, Travel

I’m in mothertrucking Rio – favela edition

4 September, 2014

24 hours into my first visit to the country that gave the world Gisele and women the ‘Brazilian’, and I still can’t believe it’s real. I never knew I had such a deep seated admiration for this land. It’s caught me quite off guard.

From the welcoming and helpful greeting at the airport, to the iconic curving coastlines along Ipanema and Copacabana, there is nothing about today that was not real. And yet my day was undeniably unreal.

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